Jewish-Muslim Bridge Building During Summer 2014

June 2, 2014

The Jewish-Muslim Community Building Initiative (JMCBI) is a core component of the work of JCUA in building bridges with communities impacted by discrimination. JMCBI began in 2001 in response to the tremendous rise of Islamophobia after the terrorist attacks on 9/11. During the past 14 years JMCBI has created inter-religious dialogues, cultural events and stood in solidarity with both Jews and Muslims against Islamophobia and Anti-Semitism. We are excited to share two developments happening over the summer of 2014 that will further the work of Jewish-Muslim bridge building.

Zoë ReinsteinWe welcome Zoë Reinstein to JCUA as the Jewish-Muslim Community Building Initiative summer intern! Zoë is from Highland Park, IL and is no stranger to JCUA. Zoë is a third generation participant in the work of Jewish social justice with JCUA beginning with her grandfather. She is an incoming sophomore at Oberlin College and became activated in interfaith work when she participated in Hands of Peace last summer. During the summer Zoë will be instrumental in helping us grow JMCBI’s activities and making sure the annual Iftar in the Synagogue is a success!

Chicago SinaiThis summer we are thrilled to be working on our 9th annual Iftar in the Synagogue. This is one of the highlights of the year in Chicago for Jewish and Muslim interfaith engagement. The theme for Iftar this year is Rekindle Our Faith, Renew Our Community and we will be focusing on how we can bring a new spirit of justice to our city through the lens of our faith traditions. We are grateful to Chicago Sinai Congregation for hosting the 2014 Iftar in their beautiful synagogue in the heart of downtown. Space is limited this year so please RSVP online to reserve a spot. There is no mandatory cost to attend while a donation is always appreciated which helps cover the cost for the delicious catered kosher and hallal dinner.

Mark your calendar for the Iftar on July 17th at 6:30pm taking place at Chicago Sinai Congregation (15 W. Delaware Pl., Chicago). The synagogue is easily accessible by public transit or you can drive and park at 1 E. Delaware Pl. and bring your ticket to the synagogue to have it validated for discounted parking.

Action Items:

1) RSVP to attend Iftar in the Synagogue

2) Volunteer at Iftar in the Synagogue



From Immigration to Gun Violence: JCUA Stands with Families Torn Apart

April 29, 2014

In the past five years nearly two million individuals have been deported from the United States. Fathers and mothers taken from children. Grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins separated from their families. The trauma of loss and disconnection profoundly felt as people grapple with the disappearance of those closest to them.

Two million is too many!

We are standing together with our partners throughout the Chicagoland area and demanding the end to deportations. The voice of each individual experiencing detention and deportation can become silenced by the system that overwhelms them. However, when we all come together and demand change that collective voice cannot be silenced.

May 1st, JCUA is joining with our partners to march from Haymarket Square (175 N. Desplaines) to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (101 W. Congress Pkwy). Please join us beginning at 3 pm and declare that we will no longer accept as normal that families should be torn apart by a broken immigration system.

Later that evening continuing our focus on families torn apart we turn our attention to the horrible plague of gun violence. We will join together with our community partner, Fierce Women of Faith, for an important mother-son dialogue about the challenges of parenthood and the forces that would turn the young men in communities throughout Chicago to a life of violence and death. Please join us in the evening on May 1st from 6:30 – 8:30 pm at DuSable Museum. Tickets can be purchased in advance here.

128 years ago as people peacefully demonstrated for an eight hour workday in Haymarket Square that would enable parents to spend more time with their children a bomb was thrown and the lives of at least 11 people were ended. 125 years later through both the devastation and gun violence and an unjust immigration system millions of people have been ripped away from their families and lives have been destroyed. Join JCUA at either one or both of these events on May 1st as we stand together for families.

Details of the Events:

(1) “Two Million, Too Many” Immigration March

Haymarket Square (175 N. Desplaines) at 3 pm marching to the office of ICE (101 W. Congress Pkwy)

(2) “Question Bridge: Black Males – Mother to Son: A Frank Discussion and Letters of Love”

6:30 pm at the DuSable Museum of African American History. Tickets are $5 and can be purchased in advance on the museum website.


Meet Or Tzedek’s Summer Staff

April 18, 2014

We would like to introduce our Or Tzedek summer counselors, Wendy Mironov, Ari Weber, Graie Barasch-Hagans and Hannah Arwe.  We are excited to welcome such experienced and passionate people to the team.

>>> Learn more about Or Tzedek’s two week overnight summer program<<<

wendypicWendy Mironov

Wendy’s  work on social justice issues began in college when she joined the Workers’ Rights Center of Madison’s campaign to stop wage theft at a local restaurant and continued through her travels.

Currently, in Chicago, Wendy is involved in immigrants rights and education justice movement work.  She also recently completed nursing school and works at the Chicago Women´s Health Center, a sliding scale health collective on Chicago’s north side. She is active in the Jewish community as an alumni of AVODAH and Moishe  House Chicago, and as a current member of Jewish Solidarity and Action for Schools.

When Wendy closes her eyes, she sees her dream Jewish community. This community is engaged in social justice and movement building as a central part of its practice of Judaism.  This dream, combined with her love of cooking huge meals for dozens of people, makes her very excited to staff Or Tzedek this summer!

Ari Weber

Ari is 29 years old and will be a fourth year rabbinical school student at Yeshivat Chovevei Torah. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with degrees in both social welfare and Hebrew.

Following college, Ari spent four of the following five years in Israel learning in yeshiva, serving in the Nachal Brigade of the Israeli army. He volunteered in Tiveria at the Youth Futures branch of the Jewish Agency and in Tsfat at Livnot U’Lihibanot, an outreach program involving hiking, volunteering, and light spirituality. Ari has just completed his third year of rabbinical school studying in Israel at Yeshivat Har Etzion in Gush Etzion. Upon completion of his studies, he is looking into either working on Hillel campuses or in the chaplaincy field.

 

Or Tzedek Bio PicGraie Barasch-Hagans

Graie is a St. Louis native who is currently living in Philadelphia while pursuing a Masters in Public Policy from the Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers.

Last year he spent a year in service through Americorps Vista in New Orleans. Graie is an active member of Kol Tzedek, a Reconstructionist Synagogue in West Philly.

He is passionate about Judaism, social justice, public education, and working with youth. Graie is excited to be spending this summer with Or Tzedek!

 

headshot or tzedekHannah Arwe

Hannah is currently finishing her master’s degree in Women’s & Gender Studies at DePaul University.  She has a passion for social activism, specifically when it is grounded in principles of transformative justice and community accountability.

Hannah has focused most of her educational and professional efforts in anti-violence work, specifically domestic violence and youth violence, and has been educating Chicago youth as well as advocating for survivors of domestic violence since she moved to Chicago 3 years ago.

At DePaul, her research has focused on anti-racism and dismantling white privilege.  Hannah is excited to bring her Jewish identity into her social justice work, and can’t wait to get started at Or Tzedek this summer!


JCUA Responds to This Past Weekend’s Violence

April 14, 2014

As Jews across the country prepare for Passover, I am with my extended family in Los Angeles. Though the metropolitan area here is more than triple the size of Chicago, it is the Chicago weekend violence statistics that I am following, along with the shootings at two Jewish Community facilities in metropolitan Kansas City . It is a bloody, violent weekend.

Image

We all feel the reverberations of gunfire. We mourn the victims who we don’t know and will never meet. We mourn with the parents, children, and grandchildren left behind, bereft and shell-shocked. 

JCUA’s Justice Seder earlier this month was entitled “From Handguns to Hope”. Those who attended were moved and inspired, and left feeling a little more powerful and a little less helpless. We must strengthen our resolve to come together in solidarity with those who are suffering to address this scourge, the modern-day plague of rampant gun violence.

On the eve of Passover, as we recall and retell the story of our peoples’ oppression, let us remember the communities who suffered great loss this weekend, and all due to gun violence. It has to stop.

Please join us. We need to pull together now more than ever.

Judy Levey, Exec. Dir.

P.S. In the wake of these shootings, we are more committed than ever to the work of our partners responding to gun violence.  Fierce Women Of Faith are sponsoring a Mother/Son Dialogue on May 1st at the DuSable Museum.  Click here for more information.


46 Years Later: Connecting #mlk’s Last Speech to #abetterillinois

April 4, 2014

46 years ago today, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee. In his last years, King focused his work on addressing the intersections between economic inequality, poverty and race. King was in Memphis to support the Memphis Sanitation Strike, a critical first campaign in his larger Poor People’s Campaign.

In his last speech, King said, “Nothing would be more tragic than to stop at this point in Memphis. We’ve got to see it through. And when we have our march, you need to be there. If it means leaving work, if it means leaving school — be there. Be concerned about your brother. You may not be on strike. But either we go up together, or we go down together.”

46 years after Dr. King spoke those words, economic and racial inequality are more strongly connected than ever.  As we see in this article, income inequality is growing in our city. Chicago’s staggering economically polarization is concentrated in communities of color, and nearly entirely in neighborhoods where CPS closed more that fifty Chicago Public Schools last year.

40 Years of Chicago’s Rising Inequality, in One GIF

We cannot stop our work to combat poverty.  JCUA is committed to addressing economic inequality in our city and state.  That is why we are members of the A Better Illinois coalition.  By working with A Better Illinois on changing Illinois’ flat rate income tax system, we are not only advocating for a more fair income tax.  We are also advocating for a solution to Illinois’ massive deficit and the resulting cuts in vital programs and services for the economically marginalized.  Together, we can stop the growing stratification in Chicago and draw a new map with more just colors.


 Want to get more involved with JCUA and A Better Illinois?  Click here.


(Guest Post) MLK Weekend Havdallah and Training

January 13, 2014

Join JCUA, Jewish Solidarity and Action for Schools (JSAS), Moishe House, and Rabbi Brant Rosen of the Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation (JRC) in Evanston for a powerful havdallah and workshop to learn about organizing for economic justice legislation. The event will be held  on Saturday, January 18 from 6-8:30 at Moishe House, 6418 North Glenwood Avenue. Take action with JCUA  for a fair and just tax system in Illinois and RSVP. 

By Ben Lorber
Jewish Solidarity and Action for Schools

goodwin2In honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, we will gather this Saturday night as Jews to educate and organize the Chicagoland Jewish community around the struggles to create a fair income tax system and to close corporate tax loopholes in Illinois. At this special havdallah evening, study the prophetic words of Dr. Martin Luther King and Abraham Joshua Heschel, learn about the ongoing fight for racial and economic justice in Chicago, and motivate ourselves to take action to bring justice to our city!

“A Better Illinois” is a coalition of over 70 community, labor, faith, and civic organizations, , including JCUA, JSAS, and Rabbi Rosen, that is working to create a progressive income tax rate in the state of Illinois. Currently, Illinois’ citizens are taxed at a flat rate irrespective of income. Under this system, a single mother surviving on $15,000 a year sees the same percentage of her income- 5% taken out for taxes as does a business executive making $15,000,000 a year. Clearly, a loss of 5% yearly income is much more serious for the former than for the latter.

Read the rest of this entry »


[Action Alert: Feb 25th] Vigil and Press Conference for Economic Justice

December 12, 2013

Join JCUA members and our interfaith partners on February 25th, as we call for a smarter, fairer, and more just tax policy in Illinois.

tax-reformJCUA is a proud member of the “A Better Illinois” campaign, advocating for a fair and just tax structure in Illinois. The campaign calls for a graduated income tax in Illinois, to replace the current “flat” tax.

Why We Need Change:

  • A graduated income tax is estimated to LOWER taxes for 94 percent of Illinoisans.
  • A graduated income tax would put more money into our government so that they could continue to provide for the right priorities – education, health care, safety and services for those who are most vulnerable (read more).

Take Action:

Please join us for a press conference and special interfaith vigil with religious leaders. This event is to help build support and awareness of our current efforts to be bring a spiritual voices to the fight for a fair and just tax system in Illinois.

  • When: 10:00-11:30 pm, Tuesday, February 25, 2014
  • Where: The Chicago Temple, 77 West Washington, Chicago

Please invite friends, coworkers and neighbors as we raise a united interfaith voice for justice and common sense public policy (read non-partisan in-depth analysis).

To RSVP, contact: chris@jcua.org


Director of Teen Programs Speaks about Faith Informed Justice

December 11, 2013

Yesterday evening, Rebecca Katz, JCUA’s Director of Teen Programs, spoke at the 8th Day Center for Justice Young Adult Council and the Brother David Darst Center’s “Speaker Series: Faith Informed Justice.” Together with Jerica Arents, peace activist and educator, and Gerald Hankerson, CAIR-Chicago’s Outreach Coordinator, the panel explored how their faith tradition shape their work for justice. Over forty people attended the event, held at the Darst Center.

Rebecca, Jerica, and Gerald at the panel.

Rebecca, Jerica, and Gerald at the panel.

During the panel, Gerald reflected on how his Muslim faith guides his activism work. Addressing how her spirituality shapes her justice work, Jerica described how she uses silence and reflection as a space to examine and combat internalized oppression.

During the Q&A session, many of the questions focused on the panelists’ experiences teaching youth about social injustices in Chicago. One audience member asked,” How do you help teens who are struggling with feelings of guilt?” Speaking from her experience with Or Tzedek, Rebecca answered that guilt is a natural, but unproductive emotion that often causes people to run away from social justice engagement.

As a strategy to move from guilt to (productive) responsibility, Rebecca explained the importance of teaching teens concrete activism and advocacy skills, like creating an action plan or identifying attainable goals. This training allows teens to break down a seemingly insurmountable oppression, like institutionalized racism, into a campaign focused on a specific issue, like gun violence in Chicago.


The Paths to Transformation (Torah Commentary)

December 4, 2013

What does it take to grow as a person or institution? What kind of transformation is necessary? In what ways must we leave our comfort zones in order to thrive? This week’s Torah portion – Parashat Vayigash – gives us a few clues to these questions.

Asaf Bar-Turaby Asaf Bar-Tura
Director of Operations, JCUA

This week we find Jacob’s family facing a famine, and pleading for help from Pharos’s deputy in Egypt (whom they don’t realize is actually their brother Joseph). At first Joseph tells them that in return for help, he demands to keep their brother Benjamin as a slave. He then agrees to help them, and reveals his identity (I’ll get back to that in a moment).

The brothers go to back to their father, Jacob (who is still in Cna’an, today’s Israel/Palestine), and he moves his whole family to Egypt, escaping the famine. This is where I’d like to start.

On the way to Egypt, as Jacob is leaving his home, G-d says to him: “Fear not to go down to Egypt, for I will make you there into a great nation” (Genesis, 46:3). So our first question is, Why does G-d promise to make Jacob into a great nation in Egypt, of all places? For me, the first lesson here is that growth and transformation mostly comes about when you are outside your comfort zone. When you pursue what is yet unknown. And it’s ok to be anxious. But no need to be afraid.

But how was this made possible in the first place? How was Joseph persuaded to reveal his identity to his brothers? This brings us back to the name of this Torah portion – “Vayigash.” The Hebrew meaning of this word is, “to come close,” or “to approach.” As Rabbi Jonathan Sachs points out, it was when Joseph’s brother – Judah – approached him up close, that Joseph finally broke into tears and revealed himself.

Remember, Judah was not aware that he was talking to his brother. As he was pleading on behalf of his family, he was talking to one of the most powerful people in the land. And yet, to accomplish his goal, Judah realized he needs to get closer, to approach. We can touch others powerfully when we overcome barriers and fear, and get close to one another.

To recap, so far we learn that transformation and change happen when you leave your comfort zone, and also when you get up close to others, approaching them on their terms.

But we would miss the drama of the Torah portion if we did not pay more attention to Judah, the brother who plead for Benjamin before Joseph. Rabbi Sachs reminds us that a few chapters before this one, Judah was the brother who proposed selling Joseph off to slavery. In light of this past behavior, it is all the more dramatic that Judah is the one to propose that he (Judah) stay as a slave in Benjamin’s stead (Genesis, 44: 33). The man who sold his brother to slavery, is now willing to go into slavery to save his brother.

It is Judah – the one after whom Judaism is named – who undergoes a dramatic transformation.

Takeaways from “Vayigash”? Perhaps that inspirational, transformative processes happen when we are bold enough to step out, and step closer. When we are willing to accept that things can be better than they are, in us, and in our circles.


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